Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Serve and Dolly Game; Chris Jones Reveals a Break with Tradition That Has Sparked Controversy in Tennis and Left Young Fans Outraged by a 'Politically Incorrect Stunt'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Serve and Dolly Game; Chris Jones Reveals a Break with Tradition That Has Sparked Controversy in Tennis and Left Young Fans Outraged by a 'Politically Incorrect Stunt'

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRIS JONES

BRITAIN'S Tim Henman, the top seed, will today find himself in the middle of an extraordinary row over ball-girls when he steps on court at the Tennis Masters event in Madrid.

The tournament has made headlines in Spain this week following a decision by organisers to replace the young fans normally used as ball-girls and boys with professional female models.

The 19 to 28-year-olds are now employed in most of the televised matches at the tournament.

Despite winning applause from spectators, they had a mixed reception off-court.

Leftwing Madrid politician Ines Sabanes said employing the women, who wear skirts and tight tops, was sexist and frivolous.

Parents of the teenagers they ousted felt it was heartless. "This kills the children's dreams of sharing a court with their idols," said a 50-year-old mother.

Many fans questioned the models' lack of experience: most knew little about tennis before signing up for the job and have had two weeks of lessons to prepare.

"I started from zero, apart from a bit of messing around on the beach," said Mercedes Munoz, 26, at a pre-game makeup session.

The ball-girls they replaced, who dressed in less glamorous black shorts and shirts, have expressed annoyance and disappointment at the decision, which has been condemned as a politically incorrect publicity stunt. "We think its very, very bad because in a game of tennis the centre of attention should be the player," said one 14-year-old who did not want to be named. "It's sport, not a catwalk."

Only the players seem to have shrugged off the controversy.

"When you're on the court, you only look at the ball and your coach.

As long as its the same ball, it doesn't matter [who throws it]," said Spain's Alex Corretja. "You're not going to get distracted, only if they don't know how to throw the ball. …

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